How to get Women into Wireless. By Zoe Cunningham, Softwire
Zoe Cunningham, Softwire, shares tips on how to recruit and retain women in the wireless industries.
As a successful woman working in technology, I often get asked how to attract more women into tech roles. I get asked by diversity officers of large corporates like BT and I get asked to share my experiences as a women with young people through organisations like STEMNet and TeenTech. “Where are the women?” has become a topic across many areas of modern life, such as business, academia and politics, as well as technology. My favourite question on the topic was from a young founder of a tech company: “There are only four of us in the startup and we’re all white males – what do we do?”.
Step one: Don’t panic It’s not your job to fix the whole tech industry. There are fewer women than men in tech right now, and you’re not going to change that by redesigning your marketing materials or having more female-friendly office perks. If there are only four of you and you care enough to accost a speaker to ask what you can do differently, your company make up likely reflects the industry and you will be OK.
Step two: Realise that there is no magic “women thing” that you can do One mistake that crops up time and time again and will alienate rather than attract women is the tendency to think of them as a homogenous group. I’m a mid-thirties woman without children so painstakingly outlining your maternity policy will not make me feel more welcome, whereas for some women this will be a key factor in considering where to work. Similarly booking in “girly” events or perks without finding out what your female employees like can seriously backfire. As one of our developers said recently “women in tech don’t tend to want manicures”. (Of course I’m not saying that generalisation is true either – just remember that different women like different things.)
Step three: Find information specific to your business What do the women who work for you already think you do well, or not so well? Perhaps even more tellingly, why do women leave your business? Make sure you hold exit interviews and when you do try to ascertain whether you are finding out what people really think. Consider using a member of the HR team or someone who hasn’t been involved in the day to day work of the exiting team member, to make sure that they are not holding back from criticising the person who is holding the interview.
Step four: And if all that fails… If you are really have problems recruiting and retaining women, here are some suggestions:
- Train all of your staff in relationship building and personal interaction. Soft skills are classically considered female territory, but even more importantly these skills will help you to uncover what people really think and help them to feel welcomed.
- Value diversity. The best way to think of diversity is not whether an employee is a woman, or of a different race or sexual orientation, but whether they actually think differently from you. Hunt out different opinions. Think through the “obviously stupid” ideas for a bit longer – maybe you are missing something. Be suspicious when everyone you hire agrees with you.
- Finally, quotas for hiring are risky for all kinds of reasons, but quotas for shortlists are not. Force yourself to find diverse candidates, especially for senior roles in the company (note that you may find this very hard – don’t give up!) and you may well find yourself surprised to end up hiring a woman.
About The Author
Zoe Cunningham has 14 years experience working in the technology sector and is currently Managing Director of Softwire Technology. In 2013 she was named as one of the 100 most influential people in Tech City and selected by the BBC as the Brightest Woman in Britain.
Zoe is passionate about technology that changes how we live and about technological innovations that apply to every day life. Zoe is a regular contributor to several technology blogs and has had articles published online at the Guardian,Computer Weekly and The Huffington Post.
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Keep the conversation going on Twitter: @CambWireless
Want to find out more about Cambridge Wireless? Visit http://www.cambridgewireless.co.uk/